Chicano/Campesino Soul Food Comes to Life with Los Slydogz

“Humble food for the working class” is the slogan used by the Mexican food cart Los Slydogz run by Creator Chef Sergio Garcia. He labels it “Chicano/Campesino Soul Food”  and putting a twist on traditional Mexican “peasant ” dishes. His cart provides catering and pop-ups around San Diego and gives a taste of what he ate growing up with a healthy interpretation. I’m used to the Americanized Mexican food around San Diego (carne asada fries, fish tacos, etc.),  so I was blown away when Sergio created these amazing flavors and unique combinations with his healthy Mexican food. His food completely changed the way I view Mexican food, how it can be healthy and not this fatty meal you eat after a night of too many drinks or when you’re over that all-veggie, no carb diet. I was excited to get to know Chef Sergio and learn more on the innovative recipes he has created.

|Tell us about your background and what led you to become a chef |

S: I came from a humble background where both of my parents worked and I started cooking as a necessity for my family. Throughout college, I was able to cook $6 meals that lasted me a week. I graduated SDSU in international business and jumped through several jobs soon after; I worked as the SDSU academic adviser for business students, became a sales person for an alcohol distribution company, then eventually started a business which serviced and maintained wind turbines. When I was 28, I had a revelation in Pennsylvania while on a business trip, asking myself what the heck I was doing and why I wasn’t doing what I was passionate about. I decided to give cooking a shot.

|What sort of training do you have? |

S: Since I have no culinary school experience, it was tough finding a place that would hire me as a chef, especially a place that would pay me. Bud Deslatte, owner and chef of Bud and Rob’s New Orleans Bistro, was looking for an apprentice and decided to give me a chance. From there I had to prove myself as a chef and started from the bottom; I worked at Cafe Chloe as a line cook, worked for Jsix under Chef Christian Graves and then I was part of the team for opening TJ Oyster Bar’s second location where I helped assist the kitchen. I was finally hired as a chef at Prospect Bar and Grille.

|How did Los Slydogz come about after all these restaurant jobs?|

S: After jumping from restaurant to restaurant and learning everything that I could, I decided to take an 8 state tour of Mexico. It was through this tour that I found my food cart. I came up with the name Los Slydogz through the concept that it was a cart that’s easily accessible, can fit anywhere and it would just bring food out of nowhere. Food on the sly.

| Haha that’s great! So did you start your business right away?|

S: No- it was at first just an idea. I helped my friends and owners of Del Sur, create their menu. From there, I worked for a Sushi company named SOAR (Sushi on-a-roll) who was ran by my mentor and also colleague, Jeff Roberto. Eventually I moved to Mississippi where my daughter lives  and works, and collaborated Mexican flavors with Pops Brothers Popsicles. It finally became clear that I needed to pursue Los Slydogz when my grandmother passed away in 2016. She made everything from scratch when I was growing up; she cultured her yogurt, sour cream, and made her own ice cream, salsa, etc. Flipping through her recipes made me realize that this was the food that Los Slydogz was going to offer. I wanted to bring and share my culture through my food but also putting a healthy and vegan twist to it. I’m all about keeping it simple, so the cart was the perfect size and least complicated way to start my pop-up catering business. I ignored the discouraging comments from other chefs, who said the Americanized-Mexican food was what would gain popularity. Using my heritage, I wanted to convey a different side of Mexican food to people. And it should be affordable! It hurts my heart a little when I see a $12 taco..

|Where was your first catering gig and how did people become familiar about it?|

S: I began my pop-up catering through Mexican business owners such as Rob Moran’s Heartwork Coffee Bar, Milo Lorezana and Carolina Santana of Por Vida coffee shop and Rob Benavides’ tattoo parlor Flying Panther. It meant a lot to me that these business owners were providing such great support, which is why I think it’s so critical to help the minority business owners out. Lester Corral played also a huge part into encouraging me to start Los Slydogz.

Los Slydogz is currently growing through word-of-mouth and I’d like to keep it that way. I have an Instagram account and that’s about it. People usually book the cart by texting me or messaging me through my Instagram. I’d rather people taste my food rather than just look at photos online or trusting a friend who has tried it. Word of mouth has helped me a lot.

|How would you describe your dishes?|

S: Making my dishes as simple as possible. NFG (Non Functional Garnish)–don’t over complicate your dish by using unnecessary garnishes to make it look fancier than it is, as chef Will Harris from True Food Kitchen’s taught me. My dishes are peasant farm style food with a  touch of modernized Californian flavors. I also love layers of texture; I always like to add some sort of crunch when you bite into my food and then add a few other layers of texture to it.

|What’s in store for Los Slydogz?|

S: I want to continue the easy accessibility and mobility behind it, so eventually I would like to train my sous chefs and open two more carts. I would like to spread the healthy Chicano food that my cart will bring. I recently served the food at the UC San Diego campus to hundreds of students around the world, and they were fascinated by the flavors my dishes brought because it was something they have never tried before. I want to spread my culture through food and that is what Los Slydogz is about.

I was lucky enough to try some of the mouth-watering dishes chef Sergio made that are coming to the menu soon!

The “Cajun Rellenos”– a take on the traditional chiles rellenos with a touch of cajun to it. This is made of shrimp and crawfish étouffée, topped with a tempura chile and sour cream. The layering of the flavors and the added crunch on the chile made this dish amazingly delicious.

“Sope” (Mexican corn cakes), a healthier version of it topped with prickly pear or “chayote”, sweet potatoes, salted raw cacti, and vegan sour cream made out of cashews. His foods are health conscious such as the sweet potatoes and are better for diabetics and the raw cactus is great for the digestive system. His catering cart provides a vegan option as well.

Next was the “Torta Ahogada”, this was my favorite! I’ve never had mole before and I think he spoiled me by feeding this to me. He got the mole base from his Aunt in Mexico, who makes it from scratch and helps her sustain her business. He made the rice out of fresh tomatoes and stock. The mole was slightly spicy and deliciously creamy.

It’s the love for food and also not losing sight of his heritage that makes Los Slydogz the next innovative taste of Mexico. Message him on instagram if you’d like to book a catering dinner with him: Los Slydogz or look out for them at a local pop-up event, you won’t want to miss out on this yumminess.

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